Resilient . able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.
Steve’s positive that Danny will never speak to him again. Never. Just like right now, as he holds Charlie’s small fingers in one hand, the palm of his other cupped over the boy’s blonde head, this will be the last time he’s allowed within an inch of Danny’s son. Ever.
“Danno will be here soon,” Steve crooned softly as Charlie sobbed, his legs weakly churning on the gurney he’d been reluctantly transferred to from Steve’s arms. “And later? We’ll get some ice cream. Would you like that, huh?” The question was a stupid one because it was darn clear what Charlie wanted - who he wanted - and Steve’s attempts at distracting him were feeble at best. They’d gone over as well as the teddy bear, the colorful stickers from the nurses and even the promises of an ice popsicle or two. Steve had tried to call Danny a few times, hanging up when voice mail clicked in because he didn’t dare leave a message. What would he have said anyway? Steve had tried for a direct conversation but finally had resorted to a simple text message.
Call me. ASAP.
But ASAP hadn’t been so fast and Danny had responded to that text message by calling Steve only a few minutes earlier and by then, it was Steve who couldn’t take the call because he was holding Charlie as quietly as he could for the x-ray technician, the two of them draped in radiation protective garments. When Steve had finally called Danny back, he’d continued to do his best at juggling the chaos in the ER and the battery of barely-heard questions Danny had aimed at him. These were on the heels of the questions being spewed at him by the attending doctor, a nurse, and then admitting staff, and Steve’s head was left spinning.
How had the accident happened? Charlie had a run in with a swing set at the beach ... over by Ewa Beach ... he’d gone too high ... or, maybe tried to jump ... Steve wasn’t sure ... he’d heard the cry first and then had seen the little boy lying crumpled in a heap ... he’d banged his arm and his head ...he’d scraped his chin raw ...
Did his son have any allergies? Not that Steve knew of, but wait, ... he’s not my son ...
Not your son? Well, no ... but proxy ... I’m his guardian ...at least for right now, Steve had thought ruefully because that was sure to be changing...
How about any other prior injuries? None again that Steve knew of, but Charlie had been ill ... bone marrow transplant ... and his records? Pediatrician...?
Where? What ... how long ago? Steve’s mouth was drier than dry by that point and his head ached at the volume of things he’d been asked and then cross-examined over. He didn’t fathom why it all mattered for a broken arm and a concussion. He’d managed though. He’d put the attending doctor in touch with Charlie’s pediatrician, all of his doctors in fact ... everyone he could think of to pull the little boy’s medical records to cover all the bases. But it wasn’t over yet. Not by a long shot because Steve couldn’t even remember what he’d said to Danny. And as for Danny? There was so much noise in the background from the competition on his side of the call, Steve wasn’t even sure what Danny heard and then told him.
Steve’s gut tightened as he stroked Charlie’s face and ran his fingers through his hair. Sure, he’d watched both of Danny’s kids before. But not like this when it really mattered and Steve began to feel sick. An easy hour or two here and there wasn’t a weekend gig ending in an emergency room with an injured little boy who was overwhelmed and scared. It wasn’t supposed to be a frenetic text message or call to the boy’s father, interrupting a father-daughter event which Danny had vowed not to miss for Grace’s sake.
Steve had screwed up and now? He was out of his element on this one and hanging on to an emotional ledge by his fingertips. “Your daddy’s on his way,” Steve murmured softly as Charlie clung to his hand. He wasn’t sure when though and couldn’t even hazard a guess as to Danny’s arrival at the hospital. After that much too brief exchange and a frustrated text from Danny that he’d be leaving Grace’s competition as quickly as humanly possible, Steve’s world had continued to revolve strictly around Charlie. Even tucked onto Steve’s lap, the ride in the ambulance had been a scary experience for the five-year old. And now, the ER was loud and far too bright. Much too confusing for a little boy who was hurting and already frightened. As things seemed to continually spiral out of control, Steve cringed along with Charlie every time a strange voice boomed or a new person rushed in to follow through on a medical order or to ask yet another question.
“I’m sorry, buddy, I know it hurts,” Steve whispered, focused completely on the little boy and what the doctors were discussing now that the x-rays had finally been done. He’d tabled everything else outside of this small universe and refused to dwell too much on what might happen next between himself and his partner. Somewhere in the back of his head though, Steve’s own personal fear was just waiting to eat him up alive because he could just imagine Danny’s reaction when he arrived at the hospital.
“Un’cl Steve,” Charlie called out a moment later, his eyes swimming with tears. “W’nna go’ome.”
"Shhh, we’ll go home soon ... the doctors have to check the pictures they just took of your arm. You’re going to be okay,” Steve murmured senselessly as he vainly tried to wipe the non-stop, steady stream of tears which streaked down Charlie’s face with the side of his hand. “Everything’s okay, buddy.” Stomach in knots and feeling more keyed up than any of his past, worst missions as Charlie vacillated between wanting him or calling out for Danno, Steve decided that maybe it was he who won’t allow himself near Danny’s kids ever again.
“We’re almost done ... if it’s a break, he may need a cast. But kids are so resilient,” one of the nurse’s whispered in Steve’s ear, her tone friendly. “I know it’s scary, but it was an accident; those playgrounds ... we see so many accidents like this. I’m sure he’ll be fine and he’ll calm down soon ... it’s never easy for us to watch our kids hurting, is it? I’ll see if the doctor’s prescribed any pain medications yet for your son.”
“No. No it’s not,” Steve muttered without looking at the woman because, except for one thing, he completely disagreed with everything she’d just said. That Charlie was his son? Steve didn’t bother to correct the nurse on that point. It didn’t matter because father or not, she was right in this one thing: it hurt Steve big time to bear witness to Charlie’s pain. Nothing else she said made a dent beyond that. He didn’t want to test Charlie’s resilience or have the little boy as frightened as he was at that very moment. It also didn’t matter if many an accident could happen at a common playground by the beach. Steve still felt ... definitely was ... entirely responsible. With only one task to do that day but keep an eagle-eye on Danny’s son, he’d failed big time because what had happened to Charlie happened on his watch.
No other truth was needed.
“Unc’l Steve? W-want D-daddy,” Charlie sobbed on, his chest hitching, over-wrought by pain and simple fear. “I w-want m-my d-daddy.”
“Soon. Soon. I promise, Charlie,” Steve said. “Please baby, try to calm down, okay? Danno’s on his way ... he’s trying to get here. He is. I promise.”
No matter his partner’s wrath, Steve desperately wanted Danny to show up, too. But Danny was stuck clear on the other side of the island with his daughter, Grace, attending her final cheer competition of the year. He leaned over and kissed Charlie’s forehead just shy of the pebbly scratches and ugly purpling bruise. There was another nasty looking scrape to match those, on his chin.
“Such a big boy. So brave,” Steve whispered. He gently kissed Charlie again, startled and newly afraid by the thick waves of heat coming off the flushed, tear-stained skin. Charlie mewled sadly, his chest juddering while he clung to Steve’s hand, wanting to be held again. Stuck in time and at the whim of too many adults who only wanted the best for him, Charlie just didn’t understand why they just didn’t make him feel better. Ever patient with the boy, Steve continued to murmur a series of soft words, very much relieved when Charlie finally began to quiet down little by little.
“Here, let’s try this.” The nurse who’d just been there had returned. She was smiling and holding a small, liquid-filled oral syringe.
“What is that? Pain meds?” Steve asked, relieved when she nodded.
“Will he take this for you? The doctor is on his way back; he’s looked at the x-rays,” She said quietly apparently not wanting to disturb the newly discovered calm they were balancing on. “He’ll feel so much better if he will... Charlie? It’s grape ... do you like grape?”
“I think he does,” Steve cautiously affirmed as the took the syringe. “Hey, Charlie? Grape? Will you try to take this for me? It will make you feel better; your arm won’t hurt as much, okay?”
He waited patiently, not pressing and not really expecting the little boy to be willing. And yet, the exact opposite happened when Charlie opened this mouth, his eyes glued to Steve’s face.
“Here you go,” Steve prompted softly, smiling as Charlie swallowed the medicine without any fuss at all. “What a good boy.” Charlie heaved in a shattered sigh, unsure if he might cry again or just give in to how tired his body was. Understanding that teetering line, Steve lightly rubbed his chest, whispering constant words of praise.
“He’s a real champ!” The nurse beamed down in approval. She patted Steve on the shoulder, her next words confirming what they’d all suspected. “The doctor’s here now and he’ll fill you in.”
Steve nodded, registering the doctor’s arrival, as he leaned down to plant another kiss on Charlie’s sweaty forehead. “Good boy; you really are so very brave, buddy, and I need you to be brave just a little bit longer while I talk to Doctor Larson. But, I’m so proud of you, Charlie. Try to rest a little bit.”
Rubbing a soothing circle on Charlie’s forehead with the pad of his thumb and pleased when the boy’s eyes began to flutter, Steve forced himself to remain calm even though he was at wits end. He’d done everything he could. Hell, he was still doing everything he could but he was sure it wasn’t ever going to be enough. He tried to think back to the time he’d broken his own arm playing PeeWee football. He vaguely remembered the pain ... hardly remembered being in the hospital at all. With effort, Steve might recall snatches of conversation or a sometimes desperate look on his father’s face. A flare of anger aimed at a doctor? He knew now that his father had been this terrified; only now, did Steve get it. Heaving in a long-suffering sigh, Steve acknowledged the doctor.
“So?” Steve asked Doctor Larson who was already motioning to the person behind him. Yet another nurse who had a tray full of supplies and Steve’s heart sank deeper than it already was. “He needs a cast, then?”
“Yes, he does,” Doctor Larson said. He smiled warmly down at Charlie who was tiredly reaching out for Steve again and Steve was happy to oblige. “We’re really good at this and it won’t take too long at all. After, Charlie’s room will be ready and by the look of things, this little man could really use the down time.”
“Him and me, both,” Steve muttered under his breath as he stayed hunched over the boy. He had his doubts about how long it could really take and kept glancing at his watch and then towards his cell phone. Every person at the door was Danny ... except none of them were. Worried that Larson had exaggerated, less than fifteen minutes later, Charlie was sporting a short fiberglass cast and a few minutes after that, snuggled back on Steve’s lap.
“Uncle Steve?” Charlie murmured just once before his eyes dipped closed. He sighed then, his face turned trustingly into Steve’s chest, his fingers grasping for the material of his t-shirt.
“Right here, buddy,” Steve assured him quietly, pleased when Charlie’s breathing evened out and he began to doze. Things were finally calming down and with luck, Danny would be showing up too. However, Larson was soon back and Steve raised a questioning eyebrow.
“Room’s ready,” the doctor said, an orderly in tow.
“Can I carry him upstairs?” Steve whispered. “He’s quiet ... I think even sleeping a bit.” He glanced down, his gaze fond. The fingers of Charlie’s good hand were wadded inside the folds of his shirt and his head pillowed comfortably against Steve’s shoulder. Only his fingers flexed when Steve carefully got to his feet.
“I’d hate to startle him,” Steve explained. “He’s comfortable and he’s finally stopped crying.”
“Of course,” Larson said. “Perfectly fine. Just follow Jake here upstairs.”
Steve gave the doctor a sketchy smile, his charge bundled in his arms as he followed the orderly towards the elevators and then up to the small bedroom in the pediatric ward where Steve opted for the large recliner chair. He didn’t dare risk moving Charlie to the bed and frankly, he didn’t want to lose the contact as his thoughts began to linger more on Danny’s arrival.
"Shhh,” Steve murmured when Charlie moaned softly, his face briefly contorting as Steve settled down, the orderly helping to recline the chair to a comfortable angle. Holding his breath when Charlie fidgeted a bit, Steve watched as the boy’s expression eased back into sleep. He well knew that a nurse would be in to rouse Charlie, to check on the affects of his concussion, but until that happened, Steve intended to count the rise and fall of his chest, willing the soft hiccupy wheeze left over from crying, away. Ever so gently, Steve finger-combed a few strands of blonde hair off Charlie’s forehead, bending his head to press a loving kiss to a flushed cheek.
“You’re okay,” he murmured under his breath. “You’re okay.” Once again his thoughts were straying though. Back to Danny’s arrival and how that might wind up. Worried about what he should or could say to make things right, Steve made a face because too much time had gone by and he hadn’t checked his messages, nor reached out to Danny himself. He didn’t want to move but his cell phone was in his back pocket and Steve shifted an arm and then tried to carefully elevate his lower body to reach it, but almost on cue, Charlie made a soft resentful sound.
"Shhh,” Steve instinctively hummed, his head bowed close to Charlie’s ear. “I’m here. Just rest, buddy.” He carded his fingers carefully through Charlie’s hair, marveling at its softness and humming again when Charlie relaxed.
“Steve?” Steve felt the reactive tremor clear through to his fingertips at the sound of Danny’s voice. He looked up, startled, chest tight, his breathing stuttering to nearly a pained stop. He was stunned to find Danny standing frozen in the doorway, even though he’d been anticipating his arrival all along. But there Danny was, with an unreadable expression laced across his face.
“Danny,...here ... he’s ...” Steve whispered hoarsely. “Take him ... he’s ...” He was sure that Danny would want to reclaim his son and Steve moved by reflex, his muscles tightening and ready to switch places - hand off Charlie - until Danny’s eyes widened nearly in horror.
"No! Nonono!” Danny shushed almost too loudly when his son whimpered to being slightly jostled. ”Stay!”
“He fell,” Steve said as Danny eased himself down to a knee by the side of the chair. “Damned swings and a couple of bigger kids... and he just ...it happened so fast ...”
“When you texted, Grace’s team was waiting in the wings to go,” Danny rushed out apologetically at the same time Steve was trying to explain what had happened. “I couldn’t leave her ...I mean ...teenagers and all .. and I needed to be there for her ...I’d promised ...”
“No, yeah - you had to stay for Grace, of course,” Steve agreed. He shook his head, trying to communicate how sorry he was because all the words he’d practiced had dried up. “You should take him. He wants you ...I should have been watching him better.”
“Watching him better?” Danny surprised Steve by chuffing an almost humorous sound. “He’s five, Steven, and even ex-Navy SEALs don’t have eyes in the backs of their heads ... and if he’s anything like the way I was at his age - which we both know he is - we’re both in for quite a ride.”
“Both?” Steve asked. Baffled, Steve’s mouth gaped wide and he blinked almost stupidly as Danny quirked a tired smile at him.
"Both. What’s wrong with you, huh? Besides, he looks like he’s perfectly fine with his Uncle Steve to me,” Danny whispered as he ghosted his fingers lightly over Charlie’s cheek. He smiled lovingly before leaning over to kiss Charlie precisely where his fingers had just been.
“You though? You look shattered,” Danny remarked next as he gazed into Steve’s face.
“Me? No - this isn’t about me at all. And I think you should really take him,” Steve insisted. “Danny ... please take him. He wants you.” This couldn’t be right. Danny’s reaction was calm, far too understanding and Steve shook his head because he’d screwed up so very badly. “I’m sorry ... I didn’t ... Danny, please take him.”
“I think you should stop talking before you wake him up,” Danny replied calmly. He cocked his head, eyes narrowed as if cross-examining every inch of Steve’s face before humming a knowing sound in his throat. “It’s not your fault ... it was an accident.”
“Danny, take him,” Steve repeated, feeling numb and emotionally off-balance when all Danny did was lean over to run his fingers dotingly through Steve’s hair. How could he do that? How could he be so damnably understanding?
“No, no I won’t ... at least not yet. He’s perfectly content right where he is,” Danny murmured softly, the palm of his hand now cradling the side of Steve’s face, his thumb caressing over the ridge of his cheekbone. “You though ... you look absolutely exhausted.”
“Me? This entirely my fault!” Steve stammered as he tried to keep his voice down, helplessly relieved but still needing to apologize because what had happened to Charlie was his fault. “I’m so sorry. I should have ... ”
“Should have what? Had four pairs of arms and another set of eyes in the back of your head? Wouldn’t we all be wonderfully perfect parents if that were the case,” Danny murmured as he leaned over to simply plant a kiss on the top of Steve’s head. “Why are you sorry when I’m glad you were here with him? You were here for me, too, when I couldn’t be two places at once. You were here even for Grace if you think about it because I couldn’t have stayed with her if this had happened with anyone else watching Charlie. You were here ... don’t you get that?”
A moment later, he was moving round to the back of the chair, his fingers now trailing over Steve’s shoulders. Intuitively knowing where they’d be, Danny used his thumbs to first gently press and knead the tight, sore spots on Steve’s neck away. Then, he found the deep aches in Steve’s shoulders.
“But it shouldn’t have happened,” Steve breathed out, his eyes falling to half-mast on their own, his chin now nearly grazing the top of Charlie’s head.
“Stop talking. It was an accident plain and simple. You did all the right things.” Danny leaned down again, this time from above, the warmth of his breath preceding a chaste kiss to the side of Steve’s temple. He chuckled softly, tenderly, the sound further teasing away the tight knots stuck inside Steve’s chest. Only then did all of his aches vanish.
~ End. ~
I do not own Hawaii Five-0 or any characters.
No copyright infringement intended.
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